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  • Writer's pictureEinar Páll Svavarsson

Reykholt and Snorri Sturluson

Updated: Apr 29


Snorri Sturluson author statue at Reykholt
Snorri Sturluson author statue at Reykholt

For many reasons, the farm and hamlet Reykholt in the western region is an important historical and cultural place in Iceland. In medieval times it was the center of power, culture, and power struggle among chieftains that fought hard and were never shy to engage in challenging and deadly battles. One of the most prominent characters in all events related to power, accumulation of wealth, and leadership was Snorri Sturluson. He was a member of a power-hungry family called Sturlungar, named after his father, Sturla Þórðarson, who lived at the farm Hvammur. On the other hand, he was raised by a family called Oddaverjar, who lived in the southern part of Iceland and named after their farm Oddi.


Snorri Sturluson

The Church at Reykholt
The Church at Reykholt

Snorri was brilliant and received the best education available in his time. Oddaverjar are descendants of Sæmundur, the knowledgeable, and Oddi was one of the most prominent learning centers in Iceland when Snorri was growing up. As a poet, writer, scholar, historian, chieftain, and man of enormous political ambitions and influence, he became one of the most significant individuals in Icelandic history. Snorri wrote two of the most famous Sagas, Heimskringla, and Edda, and is believed to have written the Saga of Egill Skallagrímsson. Snorri lived at Reykholt for decades, and Reykholt is also where he met his fate. Ironically when his former son-in-law Gissur Þorvaldsson killed him in 1241. The small museum Snorrastofa is a cultural center celebrating the life and achievement of this cultural and political giant. It is an interesting place to visit and worth spending some time there. In recent years, scholars have claimed to enhance Snorri’s role in world literature, and his influence on Tolkien was always admitted by the author of Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. The argument has also been made that Snorri influenced many other great thinkers, authors, and composers in the world of culture.


Snorralaug, the old geothermal pool

Snorralaug
Snorralaug

The small geothermal pool at Reykholt, surrounded by flat stones, is one of the oldest geothermal pools in Iceland. So often used by Snorri for bathing and relaxation and so vital to him that he built a tunnel from the pool to his house.


Although the pool is still at Reykholt, it is probably different from the one used by Snorri himself and most likely a replica of the original jacuzzi. Remarkably, Icelanders used geothermal pools as far back as the 12th century. Almost every town, village, and farm currently uses a method to heat houses and swimming pools in many municipalities. If you like to try something similar, you should visit the nearby bathing place at Krauma. Ironically a dispute regarding ownership of the farm Deildartunga where Krauma is located, created a sequence of events that ended with Snorri Sturluson being adopted as a foster son of Oddaverjar.


The church and the cultural center


The West Region in Iceland Map
The West Region in Iceland Map

Today Reykholt is a school, a museum, and a cultural center. It is an excellent place to stop and rest and visit the tiny museum. The museum gives you a lot of information about Snorri, medieval times, and the chieftains in Iceland. It is a joy and has a small bookstore for those eager to learn more about Snorri and his great work. The pool is a perfect place for a selfie, and you should take the time to visit the church.


Finding your way to Reykholt

On the road, nr. 1 in the west region north of the village Borgarnes, you turn to the east on road nr. 50. You continue that road until you reach Krauma and the farm Deildartunga where you also find the boiling water of Deildartunguhver. A short distance from Krauma, you find a junction leading to road nr. 518, the road that takes you to Reykholt.


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